Colorado National Monument TR (Part I)

April 17, 2007 at 7:52 pm

There are more photos from the weekend in the gallery!

One more spring weekend, one more road trip! Mark and I took off from work at exactly 5:00 on Friday afternoon, and drove without any incident to Colorado National Monument by about 10:30pm. It was a long evening, and pretty creepy driving up the canyon rim road in the pitch dark. But we made it, got the tent set up, and crashed at around midnight that night.

The next morning we were able to sleep-in as we didn’t have Liv with us. We snoozed through the chilly desert morning until about 8:30a. It’s so cool to be able to crack open the tent and see the desert for the first time! It was a great campground. A few people out in RVs and pop-ups, a few other tents, gorgeous red rocks and sand, and little flowers all over the ground.

Our plan for the first day was to spend the morning driving around and sight-seeing the monument in the morning, and then climbing some single pitch desert cracks in the afternoon. We stopped in at the visitors’ center to make sure that there were no falcon closures that we needed to be aware of. Next, we headed south along Rim Rock drive, and I took about a billion pictures of the incredible, freestanding, striped and arched desert towers that lined the canyons.

The hike into the climbs took a little longer than we expected. It was a great trail though, winding up into the canyon from outside the Monument. Our climbs were located on a slab of striped red and pink wingate sandstone about 0.75 miles down the trail. Even though a few large groups of climbers had signed in on the trail register before us, we were the only people at the climbing area for quite a while.

Independence Canyon

So, on Saturday we climbed…

Left Dihedral (5.8) – A nice hand crack in a hard sandstone corner. It starts with a nice, steep slab to the right, which rapidly becomes pretty darn vertical. The jams are soft, easy, but sustained for the top 50ft.

The slab right of Left Dihedral (5.11-) – I don’t know if this toprope route has a name, and it’s definitely not on It has been climbed before, as many of the sandy ledges seemed to be more rounded in certain areas than they might have been naturally. Even though our shoes got incredible purchase on this rock, the tiny slopers on this very steep slab made the climb very difficult. By the time I was finished climbing both of these, my feet ached to the bones. Lots and lots of footwork.

Luhr’s Route (5.9-) – This climb heads up the slab on the right side of the area, past three bolts, through a darn tricky steep slab move, and into a huge left-arching crack. I was skeptical about the website’s claim that one 60m rope would reach the ground, but it turned out to be fine. Mark and I both really enjoyed this climb as it had a lot of everything: difficult slabs, finger- hand- and off-width cracks, laybacks, and roof climbing. I was so exhausted by the time I finished this route that I decided to skip the last climb of the day.

The slab left of Luhr’s Route (5.12?) – Mark climbed this one on toprope to the anchors. It was hard as heck in the bottom, I’ve never seen Mark have so much trouble on a slab. Since he flashes 5.12 slabs in the gym, I suspect the middle of this climb was near that grade. The top part was filled with tiny slope-y ledges that Mark’s exhausted fingers and feet just ate up.

Desert Climbing

As the sun started to get low, we decided to pack up and head out. We made it back to the campsite at around 6:30p, and Mark collapsed into the tent for a pre-dinner nap. I packed up the long lens and went out to shoot the Monument at sunset. Independence Monument is the pinnacle of the canyon. It’s a long, thin tower that was first climbed by John Otto in 1911. It’s a classic and historic 5.9 (manufactured) route, that is one of the most popular climbs in western Colorado. As I drove through the pullouts, I watched a large group of climbers take there turns rappelling off the top of the tower. This was the climb we had planned for Sunday, and it was really cool to watch all the other people head down in the evening light.